God gave me a heart for prisoners. Actual people in prison. I don’t write them letters or send books as my dear friend has, but I pray for them often. No matter their crime, by God’s grace, I suppose, the good that I believe is in them shines brighter for me than whatever evil they have done. Our culture is one of pointing fingers, laying blame, and crucifying, and I am sorry, but I just can’t hop on board. As corny as it sounds, we are all God’s children. Especially the ones in prison.
I have had the blessing of meeting faithful, loving parents of children who have been incarcerated. I have sat in a courtroom and witnessed young, lost men led out in shackles, their loved ones waving from a distance and mouthing, “I love you.” What I have seen has changed me. Deep wells of compassion have been dug in my heart that would have never existed if it were not for my life experience. And it has convicted me of my darkness within, because the reality is, we all sin. Whether we care to admit it or not, when given the choice of life or death, sometimes we love to choose death. Are we not all living behind the bars of our disobedience? Sin is jail, and no one escapes being sentenced. The difference between us and those in actual prison? We haven’t lost our minds. Not entirely, at least.
We read in 2 Corinthians 4:3–4, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.”
Sin not only hardens our hearts, it also veils our minds. In other words, the gospel remains hidden and misunderstood not because it is lacking in clarity, but because the perishing (those spiritually dead) do not recognize the face of God. Sin blocks the light from penetrating. When we lose the light, we risk losing our minds. They are no longer our own. “Every attack on your flesh begins in your mind, and from there, desires are birthed that lead to action.” Satan, the god of this world, has a favorite battlefield and that, my friends, is your mind. If he can get you to doubt the goodness of God and abandon your faith, he can get you to do anything; things you never dreamed you were capable of doing.
Jacques Fesch was the murderer of a French police officer and died by guillotine in 1957. Born into a wealthy family, his parents divorced when he was seventeen, and he grew up so lazy and self-absorbed that he abandoned his Catholic faith in exchange for a life of partying and trouble. (Sounds like a typical teenager.) Married with a daughter in his early twenties and another child with his mistress, it is safe to say that Fesch was feeling trapped by his own poor choices.
Looking for a way to escape his chaotic life, he asked his father for the money to purchase a boat and sail away. When his father refused to help him, I believe it was the final straw. Jacques lost his mind.
This is where it all goes wrong. Fesch decided to rob a currency shop, but when his brilliant plan to escape his life got botched up, he shot and killed one policeman and injured three others. It’s a tragic story that I cannot stop thinking about, because I do not believe he ever intended to take someone’s life. I believe he was trying to escape his own.
Have you ever looked at your life and been so overwhelmed that you wanted to buy a boat and sail away? Have you ever felt like you were drowning in your own poor decisions that sinking to the bottom felt like the only option? You can’t see me, but I am raising my hand to my questions.
So, what’s the point of this story?
Life without the light of the gospel is chaos, and if it were not for my holy habit of meeting Jesus in Scripture, I might be searching for a little extra cash and a cheap boat for sale. Praise God for Walking with Purpose, a ministry that teaches women how to read the Bible. A community that showed me what breaking open Scripture looks like, and that no matter how crazy I feel (which, for the record, is super crazy most of the time), God’s Word has the power to penetrate my heart and heal, restore, renew, and recreate my mind. No matter what I have done or where I have been, what God speaks to me in Scripture is the truth that I am loved, I am His, I am worthy, I am forgiven, and I am free. And fun fact: the same goes for you, too.
After three years and eight months in solitary confinement, Jacques Fesch experienced a profound conversion. His story reminds us of Hebrews 4:12: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it can judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
In his last journal entry before execution, he wrote, “In five hours, I shall look upon Jesus!” Jacques Fesch has been proposed for beatification, proving that the hope of redemption is for every soul and that God’s grace can break through anything. Even prison bars.
 “The Attack On Your Mind,” Hour of Power, https://hourofpower.org/the-attack-on-your-mind/.
 Heather King, “Light Upon the Scaffold: The Prison Letters of Jacques Fesch,” July 10, 2017, https://www.wordonfire.org/articles/light-upon-the-scaffold-the-prison-letters-of-jacques-fesch/
For someone who likes words and lots of them, editing a book can be hard work. After pouring over each sentence and getting to the point where you love them all, no author wants to hear that she has to cut hundreds of words. But that is exactly what a writer is told and tends to be reluctant to do. When I was in the midst of that very process, I received great advice from an editor. Surprisingly, it applies to Holy Week. She said, “You have to kill your precious.” To the writer, every word seems golden. But unless you “kill your precious” and get rid of the parts that are unnecessary, the finished work won't be as concise or impactful.
Holy Week offers us opportunities to kill lots of precious. It's the home stretch, the last incline of the journey of Lent. It might be tempting to just switch gears and start focusing on Easter Sunday, but if we skip over these key days in the Church calendar, we'll miss out. The spirit of sacrifice is hard for us pleasure-seeking people, but a few more days of focused effort can make the celebration of the resurrection that much sweeter.
We all have those sins that we like to justify. The ones that we hide and don't think matter much. I struggle in this way too. It makes me think of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and the way he called the ring that he coveted “his precious.” This was something he had possessed that wasn't actually good for him, but he longed for it nevertheless.
What is it that you reach for when you are longing for security or comfort or an escape? Maybe it's attention from someone who doesn't belong to you. Perhaps it's too much wine. Maybe it's shopping and spending money you don't have. It can be porn, or Netflix, or eating food to try to fill a void in the heart...anything that distracts or diverts. Maybe it's your ego that needs to die a death. Instead of a hearty dose of accomplishments and accolades, you are actually needing to grow in humility. Even as I write this, it all sounds quite horrible to me. I suppose it does to us all, which is exactly why we reach for these things. They feel so good in the short-term.
God is asking us to “kill our precious,” not because he is out to spoil our fun, but because He knows that's the very thing that is holding us back from the life that is truly life. He is asking us to have a long-term perspective. He wants my eye not just on the reward of Easter Sunday but on the ultimate reward of being in His presence in heaven. Which do I want more, short-term gain or long-term glory?
What I have found very helpful is to kneel before the altar with that “precious sin” on my mind. I picture holding it in my hands. And this is what I pray: “This is the sin I am wanting to play around with. This is what looks so good to me in the short-term. But I want to be a saint more. And I want to be free.” Romans 6:16 tells us, “You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
I wish that our desire to grow closer to God meant that the enemy of our souls would just give up and leave us alone. But nothing scares him more than people who know their true identity as beloved children of God, and he is terrified of the ones who take their faith seriously. The more committed to God we get, the more the enemy will tempt us to settle for mediocrity. Let's resist him with all we've got- especially during this Holy Week.
Our lives are too short and our calling too great to play around with sin. We're in the home stretch, the final incline in the marathon of Lent. Let's finish well. Let's fling aside those sins that entangle and cling so closely. Let's ask God to kill our precious, and do all we can to stay on the path of holiness.
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